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General News of Thursday, 28 May 2020

Source: www.ghanaweb.com

Coronavirus: US goes the Ghanaian way as Zipline Drone gets license to deliver PPEs and medical supplies

Just over a month after the TIME magazine commended Ghana for being the first country to use drones in the fight against COVID-19 and reporting that the US was considering emulating Ghana's example, the Federal Aviation Authority has granted Zipline, the company operating Ghana's drones, an emergency aviation waiver to use its drones to help America's Coronavirus response.

In a special report last month, the TIME magazine praised Ghana"s innovative use of drones to deliver samples from remote villages to cities for COVID-19 tests and the US newspaper further revealed that the US was considering adopting the usage of drones in its Coronavirus response.

Now the BBC has reported that drone firm Zipline, has been given the go-ahead to deliver medical supplies and personal protective equipment to hospitals in North Carolina.

The firm will be allowed to use drones on two specified routes after the Federal Aviation Administration granted it an emergency waiver.

It is the first time the FAA has allowed beyond-line-of-sight drone deliveries in the US and experts say the pandemic could help ease some drone-flight regulations.

Zipline, which has been negotiating with the FAA, wants to expand to other hospitals and eventually offer deliveries to people's homes.

It has been granted a waiver for two routes involving round trips of up to 30 miles (48km).

The drones will launch from a nearby fulfilment centre and drop off a box of medical products by parachute at designated spots. The drones can carry up to almost 4lb (1.8kg) of cargo and can fly at up to 80mph, even in rain or wind.

The route is currently short but Zipline hopes eventually to deliver to other hospitals and even homes.

"The Covid-19 pandemic has tasked us with being even more nimble and innovative in how to solve complex challenges," said Angela Yochem, the chief digital officer of Novant Health, which is the partner for the service.

"Fast-tracking our medical drone transport capability is just one example of how we're pioneering in the health care industry, which is known for being resistant to change,"

Ghana sets global pace

Ghana became the first country in the world to resort to the use of drones to aid its COVID-19 response and that remarkable effort by the government was duly acknowledged by the New York Times.

Following the revelation of United States' desire to adopt the innovation,
British Transport Secretary Grant Shaps announced in April that drones were being trialled to deliver medical supplies to help Britain's response against the Coronavirus.

The severity of the pandemic has now prompted a handful of new drone deliveries, the BBC reports.

According to the BBC, Windracers Ultra fixed-wing drone has been delivering PPE from Hampshire to the Isle of Wight - a 10-minute journey - and in Ireland, Manna Aero is working with the health authority to deliver prescriptions and other essential supplies to a small rural town.

Robotics expert Prof Noel Sharkey believes the pandemic could make drone deliveries more common.

"In a global pandemic everything changes," he said.

Akuffo-Addo Government vindicated?

Vice President Bawumia last year launched the Zipline Medical Drones service in the country to deliver essential medical service to remote areas in the country to salvage emergencies.

With four centres in the country, the Zipline Service has been delivering essential medical supplies to health centres in remote communities, and in the midst of the Coronavirus pandemic, the government decided to resort to the Zipline drones to deliver medical supplies and samples for COVID-19 tests - a move which was globally hailed.

But the introduction of the Zipline Drone Service in Ghana by the government was heavily criticised by the opposition NDC as a waste of money.

However, considering the usefulness of the Zipline drone in medical deliveries in the country, the role it has played in Ghana's COVID-19 response so far and the recent global craze for the use of drones for medical deliveries during the Coronavirus pandemic, it seems the Akufo-Addo government has been vindicated for its vision and investment in the Zipline drone service.

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